Louisiana is badly behind the times in our refusal to give legal recognition to children conceived through surrogacy. Last year, the Louisiana State Law Institute drafted a bill that would have provided some recognition of gestational surrogacy under strict criteria. Although the bill passed with almost unanimous support, Gov. Bobby Jindal chose to veto it at the Louisiana Family Forum’s request.
This year, Family Forum flexed its political muscle much earlier in the legislative process. HB187 by Rep. Joseph Lopinto started as a copy of the Law Institute’s bill, but in a last-minute deal with the devil before a committee hearing, Lopinto allowed Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills to rewrite the bill to his liking. The result is a bill that exhibits breathtaking malice towards most families who would seek to have children through surrogacy.
Currently, the state gives no legal force to any surrogacy contracts — there are no penalties for attempting to execute one, but the law does not acknowledge their existence. Mills’ bill instead turns surrogacy into a precarious path with a high degree of legal and personal risk.
Under HB187, only one kind of surrogacy contract will be considered legal: you must be married and both husband and wife must donate their genetic material in order to contract with an uncompensated surrogate to carry a pregnancy. Making any other kind of arrangement will now become a felony.
Same-sex couples, couples dealing with the infertility of one or both partners, and unmarried people will face criminal penalties for attempting to conceive a child via surrogacy. Anyone entering into a surrogacy contract who does not meet the requirements this bill imposes, including any doctors or lawyers involved in the process, could face 10 years in prison.
The few families who will legally be allowed to have children through surrogacy still face an intimidating burden, because the bill requires the state to maintain records of personal information about the intended parents, the gestational surrogate and their doctors, including detailed medical information about the pregnancy and birth … all to ensure that only the “right” kinds of people benefit.
To paraphrase Advocate columnist James Gill, if the Louisiana Family Forum wrote this bill, reasonable people should oppose it. The law should allow everyone to form a family in a way that is appropriate for them. HB187 brings us no closer to that goal, and it does an excellent job of disrespecting and excluding the very people it ought to benefit. Once again, Family Forum shows it has nothing but contempt for actual Louisiana families.
Matthew C. Patterson
research and policy coordinator Equality Louisiana
director of research and public policy, Louisiana Progress